Why Radio Stations Probably Couldn't Just Play David Bowie Music As A Tribute: Copyright Law Is Messed Up
from the just-the-latest-example dept
People are quite reasonably upset by the news of David Bowie’s passing, with lots of reminiscing and certainly tons of listening to his music. I certainly re-listened to a bunch of his music on Sunday night after hearing about Bowie’s death. And, some, such as comedian Eddie Izzard, suggested that “every radio station” should just play David Bowie music for the day as a tribute:
Please could every radio station around the globe just play David Bowie music today – I think the world owes him that.
— Eddie Izzard (@eddieizzard) January 11, 2016
- No more than 4 tracks by the same featured artist (or from a compilation album) may be transmitted to the same listener within a 3 hour period (and no more than 3 of those tracks may be transmitted consecutively).
- No more than 3 tracks from the same album may be transmitted to the same listener within a 3 hour period (and no more than 2 of those tracks may be transmitted consecutively).
That’s not just something that SoundExchange came up with on its own. It’s written directly into US Copyright law (at the bottom of the page). At some point, years ago, Congress (or, more likely, a recording industry lobbyist), wrote up rules that said online radio couldn’t play too many songs in a row by a single artists, because of the ridiculous fear that if they could, no one would buy music any more.
Now, the rules do say that the performance complement “may only be violated if the service has received specific waivers from the owner of the sound recording copyright” — so it’s possible that the copyright holder on Bowie’s music could waive those rules, but it would have to be to a bunch of different radio stations, and it’s unlikely they’re going to do that.
So, once again, it seems that copyright law is getting in the way of what sounds like a perfectly lovely idea: creating a day-long tribute to David Bowie. No wonder he was so keen on having copyright go away entirely.